It’s been 16 years since the world was first introduced to Carrie Bradshaw, the shoe-obsessed fashionista immortalised by Sarah Jessica Parker in Sex and the City. The award-winning series has long completed its run and the last feature film it spawned, Sex and the City 2, was released in 2010.
So why did Parker, whose famous character once called her shoe obsession her ‘substance abuse problem’, take so long to cash in on that phenomenon?
“I was just waiting for the right partner,” says Parker, 49, who’s in Dubai to launch the SJP Collection, her shoe label named after her initials, and meet fans at Harvey Nichols and Bloomingdale’s. “A lot of people, for a number of years, have been very generous and offered a lot of opportunities. But I wanted to create a collection that was well made, that was going to be relevant in the closet for many years.”
Parker has partnered with Manolo Blahnik CEO George Malkemus III for the three-piece collection.
“A lot of partners who were smart and successful wanted me to create a mass collection. But to do that, I felt [it was] a betrayal of some kind. Creating a shoe for $49 [Dh179] or $69 is a great idea, but how long will it last, what will the quality be and what’s the comfort and most importantly, would I wear it? And if I’m not enthusiastic and excited about the collection, then who am I to ask anyone else for their hard-earned dirham?
“So when I finally had the courage to pick up the phone and call George, I knew I found the right partner. He wanted the same thing. I wanted to invest in a single sole, which was not in fashion when I first started thinking about the collection, and really dedicate the idea, with the colours as neutral and with a single sole like the good old days.”
Starting at Dh1,200, the UAE and Kuwait are the first international markets to hold the SJP Collection outside of the US and Canada.
“We chose the UAE for a lot of reasons,” explains Parker. “It has a very sophisticated population with a strong relationship with fashion and shoes. Consumers here are smart, have great taste and have strong feelings about quality and we felt that we wanted to meet those challenges.
“Dubai and the Middle East hadn’t been necessarily on top of our list for international expansion. But it’s been in many ways fortuitous because the partner that approached us is well entrenched. They understood the market and the consumers here and we found them to be really smart. I think it has set the bar really high for other territories and it’s good for us to have that expectation that has been created by Dubai.”
Besides her many involvements with the fashion industry, Parker, who began her career in theatre, will next be seen in the romantic comedy All Roads Lead To Rome, out next year. She also runs her own production company, Pretty Matches, creating content for various networks.
Over the years, she says she’s learnt to be a good businesswoman.
“I’ve certainly [become] better than when I started out,” she says. “Being surrounded by a bunch of smart people in various industries who have the experience and discipline, I feel like it’s my job to listen and learn. I think if you are a curious person by nature, you have the opportunity to learn. I only hope I have taken advantage of [that].
“But that doesn’t mean that mistakes aren’t made. Strategic thinking is inherently risky. But hopefully we’ve been wise and made good choices.”
The plan for SJP Collection is to go slow and steady, she says.
“There are other areas that are enormously interesting to us. But the challenge is to not grow too quickly. Expansion is exciting and flattering but it can also be the ruin of you. The challenge is to think about the next logical step: How do we do it? When do we do it? Who do we do it with? How do you shore up your base and be strong in the initial offering? And in a market as saturated as shoes, how do we become necessary in a woman’s life.”
Because she’s been “completely and utterly” involved with the creation of the SJP Collections, she says she does not have any particular favourites.
“I’m terrible at picking favourites,” she laughs. “I had silhouettes that I was more drawn to than others. But I can’t single out any.”
The collection sold in the Middle East is completely different from that of the US market, she explains.
“[It is] way more colourful, about 50 per cent more colours than the collection in the US. Customers here want satins. In the States, satins are for important occasions only. I don’t think of it that way but that’s how retailers think. But here we have all these colours and ornamentations and satins and it’s just much more sort of like fantasy than what we have in the States. Women would not be nearly as bold in the States as they are here. That’s why it’s so exciting.” Parker met fans at Harvey Nichols in Dubai and signed shoes. Another meet-and-greet has been organised at Bloomingdale’s at The Dubai Mall on Tuesday.
“It’s really been amazing. Dubai is this mystical other world that people talk about in odd tones. So it’s really amazing to see the skyline in person,” she says. “The thing that surprised me most was [the number of] nationalities that live here. I have never met people from so many countries in three hours. I was just so impressed with the diversity of the population. It’s just a very interesting place.”
Some scenes in Parker’s 2010 film, Sex and the City 2, were set in Abu Dhabi. But because producers were denied permission to film in the city, Morocco was used as a stand-in.
Parker says she’s still astounded by the influence the show continues to have.
”What I am mostly surprised by is the connection people have made with the show,” she says. “When we went off the air and when we finished the last movie, I just didn’t imagine there would be continuity to the affection. What I didn’t realise was that with syndication, reruns and social media, the digital life of things have changed people’s relationship with entertainment. In the old days, we couldn’t call up entertainment at our whim. I think that’s a large part of the perpetuity of the show.
“It’s so touching to be connected to something that’s meaningful in some ways. It’s a real privilege.”
With a shoe collection now ticked off her list, the mother-of-three says the focus now is to prioritise and delegate.
“I’m supposed to shoot a couple of things in January. I am very much looking forward to spending time with the children during the holidays and working primarily in New York for the next six months. The shoe collection carries on and we’re producing a bunch of stuff with HBO,” she says. “There’s a lot going on, which is nice. Having to sort it all out and making it all happen is a great job.”
Related Tags:Carrie Bradshaw, Sarah Jessica Parker, SJP Collection, CEO George Malkemus